|Chapter Title||ALMOST A MURDER.|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||Love and Passion|
ALMOST A MDBDBB.
" We therefore commit this body to the deep, te be turned into corruption, looking for the resurrec- tion of the body when the sea shall give up its
A solemn hush was over all things. The silence of death itself rested upon the kneeling figures on the deck of the steamship Cambria, in mid-ocean. No sound broke the awful stillness, save the sup- pressed sobbing of the only mourner, a slender young girl, who kneeled beside the dead while the solemn service was performed, ere they consigned the body to its last restisg-pluce in the bosom of the deep. It was horrible to Essica Valdez to see her
mother die far out at sea.
Away, in sunny Cuba, they had left her father lying with folded hands and closed eyeB under the olives in old Valencia. He had united bia destiny with the Cuban martyrs, and had perished in the slaughter, leaving to his child naught save the Spanish name, the grace and beauty of the Spaniard, and his fiery passions,
And now her, mother, too, was gone, and she had no one left-no one in all the great, cold, oruel world, save Geoffrey Lawrence.
This fatal sea-voyage had been undertaken at his suggestion, ostensibly for the benefit of the invalid's failing health ; and, with his daughter, he b.Bd -r-t.í n«!«. and ho» mothar. Yet. though
the girl dreamed not the truth, Geoffrey Lawrence had another and sinister object. But hope for the sick woman had died at last ; she had passed away quietly in the night, and now-now they were lifting the body, sewn up in its canvas winding-sheet and heavily weighted, and as Easlca's wild, despairing shrieks rent the air, it waa lowered over the vessel's side, with a dull, heavy splash, into the water.' The white foam gathered ia their wake, and the ship
That night Essica fell asleep in her berth, worn out with grief and long nights of watching by her mother's side; and as she slept she dreamed a strange, strange dream, She thought that her dead mother stood beside her, pale and wan, but with the
same sweet smile as of old.
"My child," she whispered faintly, "beware of you uncle, Geoffrey Lawrence. He is a fiend incar- nate, and be hates you. Beware 1"
There followed a low, faint sigb, and she seemed to fade away, like a misty cleud, into space ; and trembling with a strange, with horror, Esalca awoke.
There was some one in the room!-a tall, dark indistinct figure, gliding about with stealthy tread. '
A subtle instinct warned the girl to keep quiet» and she lay still in her berth, trembling with alarm» while the Intruder groped about in the darkness' like one seeking something. There followed the rustling of papers ; then an involuntary sigh of re- lief or satisfaction ; the Btate-room door swung softly open, and by the light which burned outside Essica recognized her uncle.
A great fear entered the girl's heart ; a horror of -she knew not what. She arose, and lighting a match, found her way instinctively to the place where bur mother's small writing-case was kept. It waa gone!
She knew that it contained valuable papers, al- though she had no knowledge of their contents. Her mother had guarded tbem carefully-had smug- gled them in her clothing with great difficulty when they had fled for their livea from the Spanish ran- dals, who would have murdered them simply be- cause they bore the name ef Valdez. And Essica undsrsteod, with unerring intuition, that the writing case bad been abstracted by Geoffrey Lawrence, and was now in his pos«eesien.
Anxious and restless, she dressed herself, and sat down to wait for morling. When the first faint streaks of gray appeared in the east, she donned a waterproof cloak and went on deck. Te her sur- prise, her Cousin Alicia was there-Alicia, who had
not yet proffered the poor girl a word ef sympathy, j
A cruel gleam shot into the turqueis eyes of the dainty heiress-such innocent, soft blue eyes !-as they fell upon the slender figure ef the orphan girl and the malice lurking ia their depths deepened into ferocious hatred as a young man, one of the passen- gers, hastened eagerly to Essica's side-a young man, tall and handsome as an Adonis, in a picturesque brigand fashion, high-bred and graceful.
Rawing lowly before Essica, he took her hand and pressed it to his lips. Something he said whick brought the vivid crimson to her face, but thought the settled sadneBB in her eyes was pitiful to see, she did not repulse bim.
Alicia's heart beat madly with wild passion ; for it was Guy Rossiter, who had accompanied them on the voyage-Guy Rossiter, the only man who ever had power to make the heart of Alicia Lawrence thrill with the great passion of lore. She watched the tv» o furtively, as a cat watches the mouse npon which it intends to spring, her blue eyes scintillating, her breath coming and going in panting gasps, her jewelled hands closely locked together, hatred, ven- geance, murder, in her heart.
"I have sworn to win bim,"she muttered,fiercely as her eyes followed the two, standing in a sheltered corner of the deck; "and I shall do it! I will re- move her from my pathway, though I stain my hands in crime to do it ! I would take her life a thousand times over, ere she shall win his love from me ! And"-shea paused and caught her breath hard
"whynot now I believe-I believe I can see my]
way clear." I
A half hour later Essica stood alone, leaning over the vessel's side. Like a cat, Alicia Lawrence crept
nearer to her.
A few moments afterward a fearful cry fell upon
"A woman overboard !"
Gay Rossiter, who had gone below for a moment, daBhed hastily en deck, and one swift glance of despair showed him the form of Essica Valdez strug ling in the cold, dark water.
He tore off his coat and sprang over the vessel's side, swimming toward her with swift, vigorous strokes, while a boab was hastily let down and manned for the rescue. A moment more and Rossi- ter had caught the drowning girl in his strong arms,
"My darling! my darling!" he panted, pressing the dripping figure to his breast. " Ob, Essica, I love you so ! Ko one shall ever part us-never again
Alas ! the day was net far distant when both bad cause, bitter cause, to remember those words.
Later, Essica, pale and wan, opened her eyea in her own atate-room, where had lain insensible for nearly an hour. And, in the state-room adjoining, Guy Rossiter atood in thepreienee ef Geoffrey Lawrence,
ernest and determined.
" Mr. lawrence," he said, quietly, "if your niece recovers, crave your jennlaiion to win her heart and hand. If Ecsloa Valdez is net my wife, I shall go to my grave unwedded."
And Alicia Lawreice," concealed from observation, listened to every word that he uttered, her pale face fairly fiendish with malice and hatred,
" She shall never, marry Guy Rossiter 1" she hissed, wringing her white hands wildly together; "SO help me Heaven, she shall never be his wife!"